England two times Ashes winning captain, Andrew Strauss, has retired from cricket.
Whilst it wasn’t utterly surprising to see him go (the writing was on the wall once England named their three captains for T20; ODIs and Tests) the speed of his departure and that he’s leaving first-class cricket entirely comes as quite a shock.
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More importantly for England, despite Strauss’s protests about his own form, it leaves a gaping hole at the top of the England batting order. Not only does Alastair Cook now have to open the batting and captain the side but he has to get used to a new opening partner, potentially an extremely inexperienced one.
There are various options open to Andy Flower and the England selectors: Michael Carberry and Joe Root are the next ‘cabs off the rank’ as it were; whereas Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell have the ability to open the batting and both have played that role in other formats.
However, a top six of Cook; Mr. X; Trott; Bell; and James Taylor (who seems to have made the transition rather well for a youngster); plus Johnny Bairstow and/or Ravi Bopara does not fill ThoughtSport with confidence ahead of a tour to India — followed by the small matter of the ever so slightly pressure-cooker environment of The Ashes.
It lacks one vital ingredient for a sub-continent tour and Ashes: experience. How the ECB must be wishing they could fit Kevin Pietersen with a universal mute button. Despite their numerous attempts they have yet to achieve this.
Pietersen at four would add crucial nous to the top order. Yes he’s a liability (both with bat or mobile phone in hand) but he’s an experienced one. Bopara’s had more ‘second chances’ than hot dinners; and whilst Taylor and Bairstow are full of youthful vigour and
promise, even the best players can find touring India a tough mental challenge.
The noise, the pitches and the opposition are unlike any other. Factor in the weather, the food and did we mention it’s darned hot out there? The Ashes is something else too. It attracts interest far beyond the usual reach of cricket in England (and Wales). The brings a unique pressure of its own — just ask Bopara.
Strauss was not only a decent batsman but an excellent captain: solid, reliable, stoic. He was the very picture of the Kipling poem, treating “those two imposters” just the same. Whilst most of the media focus appears to be on how badly England will miss him off the pitch (he played a very, very large role in steadying the England ship after Pietersen ‘resigned’ from the captaincy) they will very much miss him on the pitch too.